08/08/2013 04:45 pm ET Updated Oct 08, 2013

Too Hot to Cook: Summer Cookbooks for Beating the Heat


When late summer rolls around, it seems like a major chore to put on long pants and socks -- forget about turning on the oven or leaving a cast iron pot simmering away on the stove all day. During July's heat wave, even the simple act of grilling became unpleasant. While we often fight over who gets to man the barbecue, neither one of us wanted to leave the cool confines of our apartment to stand over an open flame in 100-degree weather. Preferring to eat at home as much as we can, we realized that the best way to beat the heat is to work as many un-cooked dishes as possible into our dinner repertoire.

Although we rarely lack inspiration in the kitchen, we turned to our cookbook shelf for a little help in finding dishes that are delicious, beautiful to look at, and require either no cooking at all or a single cooked item, such as a boiled egg or blanched green beans. The bounty of summer produce available at farmers markets tilts our diet towards the vegetarian end of the spectrum, at least until fall sets in and we start craving heavier fare. Here are some of our favorite finds to help beat summer's heat.

The Gotham Bar and Grill Greenmarket to Gotham Recipe Journal by Chef Alfred Portale: (HauteLife, 2013) Since it opened in 1984, Gotham Bar and Grill has ranked among New York's finest restaurants, and Chef Portale was one of the first chefs to utilize the Union Square Greenmarket as a source of seasonal produce. This slim volume is organized by seasonality of the fruits and vegetables, and offers profiles of area farmers as well as wine pairings for each dish. The gorgeous photographs will immediately inspire you to head for the nearest farmers market to stock up on whatever is freshest and finest this week. Among the many no-cook offerings are Strawberry and Baby Arugula Salad, 12 East 12 Vegetable Salad, and Summer Melon Salad.

No Bake Makery by Cristina Suarez Krumsick (Grand Central, 2013) Just because we're not turning on the oven doesn't mean we have to skip dessert! The lengthy subtitle of this fun cookbook, "More than 80 two-bite treats made with lovin', not an oven," nicely summarizes its theme but barely does it justice. Krumsick got bit by the no-bake bug when her NYC oven failed to bake cookies in under two hours during a Christmas party, but her evolution from home hostess to caterer to author has allowed her to experiment with a multitude of dessert styles. There is some cooking involved--usually melting chocolate or making caramel--but the majority of the work involves mixing, shaping, and drizzling. There is a surprising variety of bite-sized treats between the covers, including Strawberry Nutella Icebox Cake, Marshmallow Pretzel Bars, and Pink Velvet Cheesecake.

Food: Vegetarian Home Cooking by Mary McCartney (Sterling Epicure, 2013) The daughter of one of the first well-known celebrity vegetarian couples (Paul and Linda McCartney), photographer Mary McCartney has compiled a collection of recipes that could make even the staunchest carnivore drool. Adaptations of family recipes and McCartney's insight into each dish are interspersed with mouth-watering photography showcasing both finished dishes and the natural beauty of raw ingredients. Well-organized chapters bring us from breakfast and brunch straight through lunch, dinner, and dessert, with a nice balance of "spa cuisine" and vegetarian twists on classic comfort food. The majority of no-cook entrees are found in the "Snacks and Sandwiches" and "Soups, Salads, and Starters" chapters, but we also have our eye on Mary's Ice Cream Celebration Cake.

The Rawvolution Continues by Matt and Janabai Amsden (Atria, 2013) Founders of LA's Euphoria Loves RAWvolution and NY's RAWvolution Café, Matt and Janabai Amsden are at the forefront of the modern raw food movement. More than just a cookbook, The Rawvolution Continues delves into the philosophy and health benefits of eating uncooked foods, and offers readers advice on which spices, seeds, and condiments they will need to stock their raw kitchen. The list of appliances required doesn't involve anything hotter than a food dehydrator with a maximum temperature of 105 F; you will be using your blender, food processor, and juicer a lot as well if you plan to "cook" your way through this one. There is an entire section on shakes and smoothies, and we are especially taken with some of the dishes that make us sweat a little, like Spicy Chipotle Burgers and Szechuan Noodles made with raw zucchini "pasta."

Too Hot to Cook? Try Some No-Cook Dishes